[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
If you're attending Coachella, prepare for the battery of pressing questions. Do you take the red pills, the blue pills, or the hallucinogenic Andean tree bark procured by your Topanga friend who is pretty sure he's a shaman? [None] What's the most efficient way to get drunk on a per-dollar basis? [Wine, but drink plenty of water.]
How can you maintain your sanity at Warpaint surrounded by shirtless bros wearing Native American war paint? [Peace pipes] How can you preserve your cellphone battery? [External battery charger.] How can you send text messages in the Polo Grounds dead zone? [Telepathy]
Should you be able to tune out the distractions and dilettantes, Coachella's toughest decisions are inevitably scheduling conflicts. There's also the issue of showing up too early and running the risk of lacking leg strength in the crucial fourth quarter, when you're supposed to figure out how to dance to Outkast's “Bombs Over Baghdad.” Show up too late and you potentially miss out on one of some of the festival's best shows.
Either way, you'll be fine. This is a music festival, not a minefield. But if you do decide to get there before dusk, these are some of the essential under-the-radar acts.
Darkside: The first and only dance duo capable of making Dark Side of the Moon seem cool to disco fans. Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington ignore both lava lamp and leisure suit cliché to create funky psychedelia that appeals to both stoners and electronic snobs.
Goat: What's not to love about a collective of masked rural Swedes that creates deranged tribal guitar rock that pulls from Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Fela Kuti? I'm not telling you to take acid during this set, but I'm not not telling you to.
Blood Orange: If music had a comeback player of the year award, it would go to Dev Hynes, who rebounded from the disintegration of overhyped, horrifically named, mid-'00s postpunk group Test Icicles to help produce Solange and Britney Spears. His finest hours have come, however, as singer for the Prince-infused act Blood Orange.
UZ/RL Grime/Shlohmo: Before electronic trap became a bro-stepping casualty, UZ and RL Grime (and Salva) helped bridge hip-hop and bass music in a way that artfully retained the former's aggression and the latter's groove. At his best, L.A.'s Shlohmo artfully navigates the Northwest Passage between D'Angelo and Three 6 Mafia.
Trombone Shorty/Preservation Hall Jazz Band: In an ideal scenario, you want to see two of New Orleans' best brass bands in a dingy club in the Crescent City. But the opportunity to see them in the sweltering desert will have to do. When in doubt, listen to more jazz.
More great under-the-radar Coachella acts below
Bombino: The Niger guitarist sings in Tamashek, the language of his desert tribe. He shreds like he was raised on old VHS videos of Hendrix and Mark Knopfler (which he was). Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced his latest album, Nomad. Bombino was built for this.
Ratking: The New York City trio brings sneering arsonist raps that you might have thought Manhattan long abandoned to the outer boroughs. The “mutts” describe themselves as Merriweather Post Pavilion meets Diplomatic Immunity and succeed in being what's really good.
Classixx/Duke Dumont/Poolside: If you like classic disco and house, or even if you only got into that type of music via Disclosure, these three acts are the closest you'll find to a Paradise Garage on the fringes of the Mojave.
Scuba: Scuba, a dubstep doyen, switched to house when the glow stick militia became grotesque. He remains one of the best DJ/producer/curators breathing.
The Internet: The duo of Syd tha Kid and Matt Martians made one of last year's best unsung records, the jazz-soul-fusing and fittingly titled Feel Good. At their show, surprise guests are inevitably in store.
Don't forget to check our constantly-updated Los Angeles Concert Calendar.